How can research-based development interventions be more effective at influencing policy?, Alex Duncan, Andrew Barnett (2005)

This paper was prepared for a workshop in Hanoi organised by the Making Market Systems Work Better for the Poor (M4P) programme, in November 2005. Its purpose is to think about ways in which those who are involved in M4P initiatives can be effective in influencing development policy and practice.

It starts by presenting two case studies of recent examples of influential research-based approaches, Sustainable Livelihoods and Drivers of Change. It then addresses three issues:

  • How we can most usefully think about the linkages between researchers and policy-makers? The paper proposes an innovation system approach.
  • The need to understand the institutional incentives facing policy-makers.
  • The risk of undervaluing communication.

Some general lessons emerge from the literature on theory and from past experience on what is likely to be most effective in influencing policy and practice. However, there can be no hard and fast guidelines, and there is no alternative to intelligent, entrepreneurial, and strategic opportunism. This needs to be based on careful analysis of individual situations, and in particular of the context in which researchers and policy-makers interact, both among themselves and with the other stakeholders.

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